Newlands Primary School's budding sailors in race against Olympians

Published on: 11 November 2016

Article type: General News

British Marine member Southampton Water Activities Centre, managed by charity Active Nation, played host to a race between Newlands Primary School's young sailing hopefuls and Olympic medallists last month.

Team GB Sailing at Active Nation 2

Newlands Primary has been involved with the Associated British Ports Sailing Academy (ABPA) initiative since the get-go in 2014. Funded by Associated British Ports, the Academy provides free sailing opportunities for inner-city schools and already over the past two summers, has delivered more than 1,000 sessions to over 200 children across the UK.

When the ABPA brought the British Sailing Team to Southampton Water Activities Centre (SWAC) last month to help the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) film a short video about getting into sailing, you couldn’t hold the students from Newlands Primary back.

The SWAC is one of the south coast’s premier RYA training schools, specialising in dinghy, keelboat, powerboat, shore-based training and watersport experiences. The River Itchen is a unique location, providing both sheltered sailing in the river and quick access to Southampton Water and the Solent for more advanced sailing. With a strong Youth OnBoard and adult sailing club, it’s a fun and safe environment for even the youngest sailor to embrace the water.

Newlands Primary School pupils with Olympians at SWACPro sailors attending included Rio 470 Gold Medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, Luke Patience and Chris Grube (470 men), Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (Nacra 17) and Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (49erFX). That’s quite the line-up.

The brief from the RYA for the day was to have as much fun as possible. Eight budding young sailors were selected from Newlands Primary, split into pairs, picked an Olympian and took to the water as a pro-am trio to learn the ropes.

Within minutes of leaving the shore, the children were jumping in, being towed through the water, re-enacting that bit from Titanic (everyone’s favourite, “I’m the king of the world”) and of course - having a go driving the boat!

The day’s main event, the showdown of the season, the Rio decider was for sure, the only race of the year that really counts: Four three-man, pro-am sail boat crews were selected and led by Patience, Clarke, Mills and Saxton, pitted against Grube, Groves and Ainsworth competing on a giant paddleboard, while 49erFX helm Dobson escaped any chance of getting wet providing a running commentary on the bankside. 

Team GB Sailing at Active Nation

After a tense first leg involving more jumping in and one crew boarding another, it was the giant paddleboard who took first place, followed closely by Saskia Clark who successfully kept her young sailor inside the boat for the whole race!

Jon Kirby at SWAC told us: "Everyone had so much fun, it was an fantastic introduction to sailing for the kids from Newlands! We were all surprised that one of the sail boats didn’t win. It just goes to show how fit Olympic sailors have to be.

"Sailing offers an amazing platform for kids to challenge themselves and push the boundaries of their capabilities; there is a real sense of achievement when you start flying around the river. We’re incredibly lucky to have the support of ABP Southampton to give young people in the city this opportunity for free!"

Stuart Martin, Active Nation Managing Director, said: "What a fantastic day with our partners. We are delighted to be able to support such a great opportunity to showcase the sport and inspire the next generation of sailors. Sailing is a brilliant sport for young people, and we urge everyone to give it a go, call your local clubs, find a venue near you and see how you can get involved."

Get involved

Want to learn more and get involved with the ABP Southampton Sailing Academy or dip your own toes in the water with the help of SWAC? Find out how; contact the centre on 02380 915753 or email From sailing to paddleboarding, through to rowing and windsurfing there’s something for the weekend cruiser or the serious competitor.

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